Episode 254 - Featuring Lee Matthew Jackson
February 19, 2020
How do you keep motivated when things can be so stressful? Running an agency can be high pressure, and you may have experienced those days where you can’t face it all. I know I have.
In this episode I share a range of ways I keep motivated when the going gets tough. I will unpack:
This episode should get you thinking about your business, the activities you do, and how you can get excited by what you do again.
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Lee Matthew Jackson: Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer podcast. This is your host Lee and on today’s show we are talking motivation, but before we dive in, can I encourage you to check out the sponsor of this episode that is Cloudways. Whenever I feel motivated about hosting, it’s Cloudways that I would recommend who currently power 90% of our businesses. Be sure to check them out and any special offers they have in the show notes.
Right folks, let’s dive in to motivation and i’d first of all, like to set the scene. So regardless of if you are a freelancer, contractor or a full on agency owner with a whole load of people, you are going to hit those times way you lack motivation. Perhaps you just don’t want to get out of bed and do the day’s work. Perhaps you are under so much pressure, you just can’t face it. You kind of want to give it all in. Maybe what you want to go flip burgers again at McDonald’s, and I’ll be completely honest. That is actually something I have often thought about. I envy sometimes the people at the fast food restaurant when they’re flipping burgers or doing whatever they’re doing because I just feel so stressed out by what I’m doing so overwhelmed and I just want a break from it all. So if you feel like that, how can you get around that? How can you motivate and push yourself through these hard times and then fall back in love with the business that you’ve created? It seems like an impossible question, but what I’d like to do is share with you a whole range of things that I have done to allow me to keep motivated.
Now, whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, the first thing I’m gonna do is write everything down and I don’t mean dear diary. I mean write down all the things that you need to achieve. Very often in your mind, you create this huge picture of all of the things that you need to do and it becomes overwhelming. It becomes too much. You feel like you can’t do it all, and that’s going to feed that feeling of dread and feed that feeling of not wanting to do all of this stuff and start thinking, how can you escape it? So often when I write things down, I actually realised that the list isn’t really that big. It’s really easy to then sort that list out into order of how quickly you can achieve them. What are those quick wins? What can you give yourself the satisfaction of doing and closing off instantly? So if you write everything down, you see those, you hit those quick wins that’s gonna leave you with a few of the biggest things that you can naturally break down.
Now, when you’re looking at some of these big things, you need to be reasonable with yourself. Can you really build an entire website in one day? No, probably not. So you need to break that down into a few sub-tasks and then set yourself some dates for it. I’m going to feel so much more motivated and into something if I know all I have to do today is design the logo or wire-frame the homepage rather than just do everything. What happens when you feel like you have to do everything, is you start to procrastinate. You put things off, you go and make yet another cup of tea. You go and look in the fridge. Maybe you go and surf Facebook cause you’re putting off this huge task that just seems so much and seems so overwhelming by breaking down this huge task, i.e. the idea of building this entire website but breaking it down into small achievable actions (check out episode 253 for more information on that) you are giving yourself a whole series of easy wins which build up towards the finished goal.
Another thing you can do with your list is prioritise. Sometimes we feel like we have way too much on, but also some of those things on our list are not essential. They’re not important. They are things that we can put off for several weeks. Yeah, shock horror. You can actually give yourself a break and do something in several weeks time. Now if you’ve got to pay project, of course you’re going to need to break that down and make sure that you can deliver that on time, on budget all that sort of stuff. But if you’ve got something that’s to do with the business but is not necessarily urgent and important right now, then it is completely reasonable for you to be able to say, I will do that in two weeks time on that particular day, and I’ll even break that down into these small achievable actions. What this is doing now is this is reducing the workload that you have right now so you can do some quick wins. You can break some of those big things down and you can set some of the less important things in the future so that you’re not worrying about them and that act of writing it all down gets it all out of your head. One of the biggest demotivators is that feeling of overwhelm. Once you’ve got it all out of your head and you know that there is a schedule, that you know there is a plan for getting all of these things done. You can actually relax and feel a heck of a lot more motivated and yes, I said, heck, I’m pretty sure I’m turning into Ned Flanders.
Okilly dokilly. Let’s move on. The reason why you should write things down first is yes, because you can do all those wonderful things that I’ve just mentioned, but equally you can look at this and think to yourself, why? Why am I doing these things? This is a really important question. You’ve got a business and your business is to help a particular type of person with a particular type of problem and if you are finding yourself doing things that’s going to take you away from that, that’s going to hold you back from growing your business. Then perhaps you need to be considering why am I doing this? Why am I taking on this sort of project when actually I really want to help type of person? I want to grow this type of company.
Now, this is a bigger and a much deeper question, but it’s something that will help with your ongoing motivation and your excitement and passion for your business for the future. For example, with our events business, we know that we are there to help event organisers get more people at that event to market their event more effectively. This is our passion. We want to help people grow community. This means that when we look at the tasks that we are doing, we can make sure that they align with that mission, that they align with that why, but also we’re all jointly passionate about this. We really want to help event professionals and if I see there are things on my to do list that have got nothing to do with that mission, then I can cross them out. I can hand them off over to other people or I can cancel them entirely because I want to stay on track with what I am doing and when I fill my time with stuff that’s going to hold me back, I know that’s going to affect my motivation and it’s going to affect the amount of time and effort that I can put into those things that really matter to me and that really matter to the company mission. So I would encourage you, if you don’t have that company mission, if you don’t have your why that drives everything that you do, that all of your team are behind, then take some time and I’m sorry, but it’s something else you’re going to have to add to your list and it’s really highly important, but you’ve got to figure out what you are doing with your business, who you are helping, why you are doing it, what are the problems that you are solving for those people so that can become your mission, that can become the thing that drives you all. And then you can start to measure all of the daily activity that you are doing against that mission.
Okay, so I’d encourage you right now to press pause and write down a list of all of the things that you feel you need to do. You could do this on a spreadsheet or an Airtable, something that will allow you to drag and drop the order. Or if you just need to get away from your machine, which is really helpful. Then grab a notepad and write down everything that you need to do and I mean everything. Everything that is bumbling around your head and making you feel stressed out. Then what I want you to do is to group or highlight the ones that you feel are quick wins. Just a few things that might be pinging an invoice to somebody; paying something, sending a quick email, doing a quick call, whatever that is. Mark those down as your quick wins and those are the things that you’ll be able to do over the next couple of days that will give you that sense of accomplishment. Then I want you to prioritise these tasks. What are the most important, what can be pushed off into a few weeks time and then start to set some dates for those including breaking down some of those bigger tasks. That is at least going to get everything out of your head and give you a plan of action, which will help to reduce that feeling of overwhelm.
Now that you’ve done that, you have a plan of action for the next few days and weeks and you should have bought yourself some time to be able to start to review all of these tasks and if you recognise that you don’t have that why and that mission as a business, then perhaps you should take some time out and work out together. Or if you’re on your own, what is it that you’re all about? What is your superpower and what do you want to achieve? Because those tasks, those types of clients, the business that you run will be based and will be shaped by that why. There’s a great book by Simon Sinek. It’s the power of why I think it was called or something like I’ll start with why. Something like that, I’ll put a link in the show notes. Be sure to take a look at that book and you’ll see why it’s so important to understand what is driving you and where you’re going. So if you can make some time for that, I would highly, highly recommend it.
So far, we’ve talked about writing things down and then making a plan to keep you motivated and if you’re not feeling motivated, writing things down seems counterproductive and yet another benefit will come from it. You can look at the list and you can see instantly what it is that you are doing that you don’t like or that you’re not great at because you can fix that really, really quickly. Are you doing tonnes and tonnes of administration and invoicing and all that sort of stuff? Then outsource it. You can take those tasks and give them to somebody who is good at doing that. You could take a look at Virtual Staff Finder from my friend Chris Ducker for example, and find yourself someone from the Philippines who could work maybe part time or a few hours a week for you in doing those sorts of activities. You could maybe go and look at Upwork and outsource those activities, but just look and see who could take over the activities that you are having to do all the time that are not your skill, that you absolutely dread, that you probably hate, that you’re not necessarily qualified for and that are filling your time and dragging you down.
Another way to keep yourself motivated is by stopping. Just stop. Take a break. If you are getting to that point that even listening to the first 10 minutes of this episode and you feel overwhelmed by the idea of even making that list, then stop. Just take a break. See if you can just take the rest of this afternoon off, chill out, go and have some fun with the family, recharge, and then come back to this in the morning when you can start with that list. Have a good rest, have a good sleep, chill out, and then attack this fresh tomorrow. You might be at the point where you are frazzled, exhausted, and trying to do all of this now is completely pointless because you’re not going to be able to concentrate. You’re not going to be able to focus on what you’re doing. You’re not going to be able to think straight and you might as well just take a break. If you don’t feel like that of course get on with your list, but if you do, it’s reasonable. You are human just to take a break. Even if it’s going for a walk for an hour to clear your head before you start doing all this.
I mentioned sleep as well. Being able to get better sleep is going to help you keep motivated. If you are tired all the time, it’s hard to be firing on all cylinders. Having good sleep and matching that with a mission of why a clear list, an achievable plan that is all going to build up to something that you can do. Something that you can keep motivated for, something that you can enjoy during the day and then switch off in the evenings. So I recommend if you are struggling with sleep, then make rest your priority. Take a look at an app such as Headspace for mindfulness, but they also have sessions on getting to sleep. You could perhaps do that earlier and just get a few good nights sleep to help re-energize and revitalise you. Then you can hit with this why, what’s my mission? Making a list and a plan and doing that with a clear head.
My final recommendation for this episode at least, would be to reach out to other people. We do need to be able to outward process sometimes. When the thoughts are all in our head, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel hard to process. But when we can have a conversation with a friend who can listen objectively and who can speak into what is going on in our lives, that’s so much more helpful, they will see things that we didn’t see. They will be able to point out the obvious, sometimes even if they don’t the very act of speaking something out helps us to see the problem and helps us to start to create the solutions we need to. If you think about the shrinks on TV and they all say, and how does that make you feel? And by the end of it, the patient has ended up answering all of their own questions. Sometimes we just need that outlet. We need to be able to let off steam and have a conversation with others. Shout out to a few good friends of mine. Matt, you’re a legend. Nick, you’re a legend. Moore another legend. People that I’m able to just jump on a telephone call with or send a messenger message to and just vent about something, get it off my chest and then just get some reasonable and helpful advice back or just to get a listening ear and I know there’s plenty more of you who listen to this show who have also been an amazing support to me. Sorry, I can’t name you all, but thank you all so much for being there for me when I’ve been in that situation where I’ve felt frustration and lack of motivation and I’ve just needed to have a conversation with other people.
Now there’s two things I would recommend for a conversation if you don’t have anybody to talk to about all of the things that are going on in your life. If you are feeling overwhelmed etc then I would recommend the charity. It’s a WordPress charity WP & Up there is a link in the show notes for you to go ahead and check out their website, their mission, and they have people that you can talk to. Alternatively, if you’d like to come and join us in the community and make some new friends in our industry, then check out our Facebook group that’s over on agencytrailblazer.com/group and that will redirect you to our Facebook group. There’s about 3,100 or so agency owners, freelancers, and all round legends who are that to talk to.
All right, let’s do the Lee Matthew Jackson patented wrap up of this week’s episode. We were saying that if you are feeling overwhelmed, if you feel like you’ve got too much on and you are struggling with motivation, then please try and write everything down that you feel like you have to do because this is going to allow you to work out a plan of action, it’s probably going to help you see that things aren’t as bad. It’s going to help you see what those quick wins are. It’s going to help you prioritise. It’s going to help you work out what can be outsourced. If you don’t have your why nailed, then spend some time when you can, nailing that why and then look at the tasks that you are doing and make sure that the activities that you are engaging with are aligning with what you want to achieve for your business.
We also recommended looking at those things that you are frankly not good at because those are things that you should probably be outsourcing. There’s nothing worse than doing something that you hate. I also pointed out it’s ok to take a break. It’s actually fine to just stop. Recognise that you’ve hit the wall and take a break. Try and get a few nights, good sleep, have an afternoon off, spend some time with the family, go for a walk, whatever that break looks like for you. Then finally we wrapped up with reaching out to other people, having conversations, sharing with them honestly where you are so that you can unpack that with them and release that stress valve. So folks, all that is left for you to do is either take action or take a break. If we don’t see you in the Facebook community, we will see you in next week’s episode.